Campaign builds to stop deportation of trans-woman raped at Sandholm

Dominic Summers
August 29, 2012 - 09:41
Fernanda Milan was raped after being placed in the men's dormitory; now she
faces deportation to Guatemala

More than 200 people attended a rally on Saturday protesting the decision to
deport a transgender asylum seeker. The trans-woman, Fernanda Milan, is due to
be sent back to Guatemala on September 17 after her application for asylum was

While in Denmark, Milan was raped in Sandholm Asylum Centre, a facility
operated by the Danish Red Cross.

"I was very touched by how supportive the crowd was, telling me how brave I
was," Milan told The Copenhagen Post. "It was also impressive to see a lot of
non-LGBT people as well. People do really care, they came to protest and are
very angry about it."

In Guatemala, Milan had been campaigning on television and in the press to
highlight the grave treatment transgender people are subjected to in her
country. After becoming a very public activist in a nation dominated by
Catholicism and conservative views, she was forced to flee her country in 2009.

After arriving in this country via Switzerland, she made contact with LGBT
Denmark, which supported her asylum request.

Under Danish law, Milan is classified as a man so authorities placed her in
the male section of Sandholm. Despite being given a separate dormitory, other
detainees were able to break in to her room and rape her.

"I wasn't raped by just one man but by many," she told Politiken newspaper
earlier this month.

Milan was due to share the room with another trans-woman in Sandholm, but the
latter refused to be placed amongst men and instead slept in a car.

After the attack at Sandholm, Milan fled the centre and was trafficked into
prostitution for two years. Police discovered her during a raid on a brothel in

"There is a lot of ignorance and a lack of information within the system about
treatment of trans-people," she told The Copenhagen Post. "This was a surprise
from what I had heard about Denmark."

Born a man, Milan had been receiving hormone treatment since she was 14-years-
old. Because she was unable to receive the treatment after leaving Guatemala,
she was no longer consider transgender by the Danish medical definition. She
continues to live and self-identify as a woman, but that wasn't enough to earn
her a spot in the women's dormitory in Sandholm.

"A transgender woman is likely to be placed in a male dormitory but in a
single room," Anne La Cour, head of the Danish Red Cross asylum department,
told Politiken. "But we would not place her in a women's dormitory because that
is exclusively for women and we cannot permit ourselves to place a man."

Milan, however, rejected La Cour's explanation, saying that she has been
living and sharing facilities with other women in a Copenhagen shelter run by
Reden International, an anti-trafficking organisation, without any problems or
complaints for a year and a half.

Denmark does grant asylum to LGBT refugees but bases decisions on secondary
and protection issues. After her application rejection, Milan fears what will
happen when returned to Guatemala.

"It's very dangerous. I could be kidnapped, tortured or even murdered. I am
panicking and I'm extremely scared."

An online petition calling for the decision to be reversed has attracted over
1,800 signatures from around the world.

LGBT Denmark conceded that the petition will have no influence on the decision
to reject her asylum application as it is nearly impossible to get a case

"The decision of an asylum case concerns the position of the asylum seeker in
the country of origin," Søren Laursen, a spokesperson from the organisation,
told The Copenhagen Post. "The petition may send a signal to the politicians,
but of course they do not influence the court either."

Acknowledging a European wide problem, Laursen added, "Denmark is rejecting
some of the most vulnerable and persecuted refugees and that one reason for
this is a lack of understanding of trans-persons and gender identity."

LGBT Denmark is currently working with the Danish Red Cross to help them
better understand the special needs of transgender asylum seekers.


Pubblicato da Lorenzo Bernini